“I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.” 1 Corinthians 7:35
We live in a busy world with endless distractions from God. When we become distracted, we become separated from God. Our spiritual journey is like a drive. Anything can happen if we are not focused on our driving. We can miss exits, run off the road, or take a wrong turn. There are many spiritual distractions that take us on all kinds of wrong paths and far away from God. Distraction from God is extremely perilous. Not only does this lead to going the wrong way, but it can lead us in the direction of trials, sin, missed opportunities, and missed blessings.
I have tried so hard throughout my life to stay focused on God. Many things that I allowed in my life distracted me from focusing on Him. Not all of these things are “bad” in their nature, but they become a problem when we allow them to distract us from looking at, and to God. Here are some common things that can interfere with our walk with God.
1. SELF (EGO)
I think the most dangerous distraction is self. Our 'self' is the enemy that penetrates right into our soul and distracts our mind from God. Our confidence in the flesh and in human ingenuity is what rules our lives. When we die to self, we set aside what we want at this moment and focus instead on loving God with everything we have got. Dying to self is not passive submission. It is not neglecting our responsibilities and commitments. It is not beating us up with guilt. It is not rejecting God's blessings. Dying to self is acknowledging that we do not know everything and committing our lives into the Hands of the One who knows everything. It is about having the right relationship with the omniscient God. Oswald Chambers said, "Is He (God) going to help Himself to your life, or are you taken up with your conception of what you are going to do? God is responsible for our lives, and the one great keynote is reckless reliance upon Him." Therefore, the only way for us to draw closer to God is to grow less in self-importance. God must become more important while “I " become less important. ... He must grow greater, but I must grow less. When ‘I’ decrease, 'He' will increase in me.
2. THE MEDIA
The media is one of the biggest distractions for me right now. It is so easy to get caught up in the media. By media, I refer to the Internet and social networks (like Facebook and WhatsApp), TV, movies, video games, newspapers, magazines and so on. The media is so dangerous because it can easily consume most of our attention and time. They are weapons of mass distraction! Wherever we turn, some sort of media is right in our face. The key to overcoming the media is to be wise in what we watch, read, play, etc, and in how much time we spend with it. We should always be willing to give it up, and to be frank, some of the things we indulge in (in the media), we need to give up. If something is pure filth or useless, we shouldn’t be giving it any time to influence us, no matter how funny, interesting, or “cool”, it is.
We all need money to live in this world, but we must not be owned by it. Money itself is not an interference in our walk with God…the love of money is. Matthew 6:19-20 says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." If we trust God, He will take care of us. That doesn’t mean we should quit our jobs, or not earn money…we just need to realize that God is more important, and is far more capable of taking care of us than we are. Don't trust in your money or material possessions. They cannot take care of you. Trust Jesus. He will take care of you.
Relationships can distract us from God. They are our connection with the world, and it is our human nature to have them, but when we allow any one of our relationships threaten to become more important to us than God, it becomes a distraction. Remember, God calls us to love one another, so when we do, it is an act of obedience to God. But don’t forget about God in the process. We need to make sure we are giving God ample time every day. Some relationships in their nature demand the most time, and that is why it is extremely important that they are centered around God. If they aren’t, we will see our walk with God taking a downward spiral. In short, relationships are extremely important, but our relationship with God is of the utmost importance.
When I say work, I mean everything from a job to ministry, church programs, reach-outs,leading worship, conducting a bible study, or anything! I have often allowed my job to become a distraction from God. Remember the story of Mary and Martha? Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” It is so easy to get caught up on our duties, but the most important thing is that we do it entirely for the Lord. They are to glorify God, not ourselves. Our job is important and we should do it sincerely and faithfully. But always remember that it is not as important as our relationship with God. We can have great motives behind our work, but never let the work or ministry become more important than God.
Far too often, we just squeeze God in when we have spare time. We do have time for work, food, sleep and leisure. But do we separate some time to spend with God? We are so attached to our routines that we are upset when our routine is interrupted, changed, or meddled with in any way. That’s because we trust in our routines and depend on them to make our life smooth and trouble-free and give us comfort, ease, control and peace of mind. We are seeking peace of mind in something apart from Christ. It is so easy to get caught up in all the things we have to do and forget to spend time with our Father. Make sure you are willing to abort your routine, and let God have complete control.
It is wonderful to have hobbies and to enjoy life for Jesus wants us to enjoy our life, but problems can arise if we put our hobbies before the Lord. The temptation with hobbies is to use them as an escape from life and consequently from God. They can rob us of time, become idols in our lives, and distract us from glorifying God in everything. Most of us have hobbies- from playing musical instruments and singing, to sports and games, and a host of others. A great way to keep them in check is to do them with God in mind, like worshipping God with music. Also, we can play sports with people to develop relationships and lead them to God. How important is my hobby to me? If my hobby is stripped away from me, would I still be content in Christ? Surely, we can have hobbies, but we have to make sure they never replace Christ.
Surprised? Believe it or not, church can interfere with our walk with God. Church does not do this intentionally, but we can easily let it hinder our relationship with God. It can be so easy to pursue church, and beliefs about God, but forget to pursue God Himself. It is so easy to go to church, when the real reason we should be going to church is to come together with fellow believers to worship and meditate on God. Also, somewhere along the way, at so many churches, we have got the idea that we need to pretend to be perfect at church. That if we show our weaknesses and struggles, we will be looked down upon. This is the opposite of what church is supposed to be. Church is really the body of 'sinners saved by Grace' or as someone rightly said, ‘hospital for sick souls.’ We are to help each other, hold each other accountable, pray for each other, and love one another! Make sure we are pursuing God before pursuing 'beliefs', or 'doctrines’. We need to get past religion and get into a relationship. It starts with you and me! Love your brothers and sisters, be open to people, and do not condemn others when they fail!! It is so easy for us to get so busy with 'church' that we forget God. Have you ever found yourself so busy working for God that you neglect to spend time with Him?
9. OUR PASTOR!
What!? Shocked? Another distraction is can be our pastor. Well, when I say pastor, I mean becoming dependent upon our pastor. Do we have an unhealthy obsession with pastors? This can be a really dangerous interference in our walk with God. It is not our pastor's responsibility to feed us everyday to be spiritually healthy…it is our responsibility. A lot of people fall into the habit of listening only to the pastor's message and wait for the next Sunday (or Friday) to be spiritually fed. This would be like eating only once a week! If we did this, we would be terribly malnourished! Sadly, this is the case for many of us spiritually. Do not idolize your pastor or any man or woman of God. They are also mortals, weak and fighting against sin like us. They too can go wrong. Please do not misunderstand me. I am so grateful to all men and women of God who have helped me in my spiritual journey. I am thankful to God and to them. What I am saying is that we must not idolize a pastor regardless of his charisma, speaking skills, or implied piety. When we put our faith and trust in mere mortal men, we set ourselves up for disappointment. Men will always disappoint us. That is why we should put our faith and trust only in Jesus Christ and his atoning work on the Cross. In other words, do not hold the messenger above the message. Respect your pastor, thank God for him and pray for him but trust God. "....... so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power." 1Cor. 2:5
10. THE DESIRE FOR BLESSINGS
It is easy for us to receive blessings and enjoy them for ourselves. Sadly, blessings can distract us from God. Blessings are given to us so that we might produce more fruit. We need to use them in the way that God wants.
We often pray for a specific thing over and over again, but forget about spending time with God. It is like a husband wanting those special dishes his wife cooks without wanting to spend any time with her and enjoying her presence. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."(Matthew 6:33); it's not “first seek all these other things”. My dear brethren, let us spend time in the presence of God and desire His presence. He longs to spend time with you and me. Am I like a child who always desires gifts from its father but ignores the father? Draw closer to God and spend more and more time with Him and tell Him, "Daddy, I love You more than all the blessings You have given me."
This list is not exhaustive. There are many other distractions. Don’t let any of these distractions keep you from hearing the voice of the Lord and drawing closer to Him. He waits for us to return to our first love and to restore our intimacy with Him. God bless us all.